How To Come Up With A Brand Name

By Mark Nichol

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The art of creating names of companies, services, and products is also an industry — and a lucrative one. Brand agencies charge dearly for a list of suggestions for brand identities, but it’s simple to do it yourself. Note that I didn’t use the word easy; the process is fairly straightforward, but it takes a lot of time and effort. But perhaps you’d like to try it on your own. Here are a couple of issues to consider:


Is the word distinctive? Does it encapsulate the essence of the company, service, or product? Does it evoke a positive response?

What is the pertinent business or industry? What is the brand’s identity or personality? What is its demographic market? What sets this brand apart from competitors’ brands?

Is the brand name already in use in the pertinent business or industry, or in another area? Is it an existing word, or is it similar to an existing word, already in generic usage, and if so, what are the associations with the word? Does it consist of or resemble a foreign term, and if so, what are that term’s associations? What impact will such associations have on use of the brand name?

Can it be trademarked, and is it available as a domain name ( or as the equivalent of a telephone number (1-800-WIDGETS)?

Word Formation

Various treatments of words are available for producing brand names:

A brand may consist of an acronym, a new word — or the mimicking of an existing one — formed by using the first letter of each word in a phrase (though the first two letters from one or more words may be employed, or a minor word may be passed over, to improve the word’s appearance of make it match an existing word). One example is Saab, from the initials for the Swedish company name Svenska Aeroplan AktieBolage).

The brand name might be a compound, a phrase formed from two existing words, as in the case of Band-Aid, or it might be devised (or revised) by clipping, or truncating one or more words, as with FedEx. It could also be a neologism, such as Kodak.

A brand name might be a play on words, like a Mexican restaurant called Sir Vesa’s (a homophone of cerveza, the Mexican word for “beer”). It could be a deliberate misspelling of a known word, such as Tru. Various forms of wordplay are used to coin new words, including alliteration (Burt’s Bees), rhyme (Slim Jims), and reduplication (Ding Dongs).

A company may choose a character, like Aunt Jemima or Mr. Clean, to evoke a certain image, or may employ foreign or classical words or syllables that represent a product’s value proposition: Lux, for example, the Latin word for “light” but also a part of luxury, suggests both illumination and refinement.

The Decision

If you’re going to create a brand name yourself, refrain from getting carried away by all these possibilities right away. Focus first on the qualities your brand name should convey: Sober, or sassy? Literal, or lyrical? Practical, or personified? Then brainstorm, whittle the list down to a handful of finalists, and test on colleagues, friends, and family and in a focus group. When you make a final decision, let it sit for a while, and then decide whether it will have lasting appeal for you, your business associates, and your clients or customers.

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3 Responses to “How To Come Up With A Brand Name”

  • Orton Kenny

    The art of creating names of companies, services, and products is also an industry — and a lucrative one. Brand agencies charge dearly for a list of suggestions.

  • Beth Gerber

    Some good tips for name creation here. Some other techniques that can be used include: metaphors that speak to your brand story (like Ivory Soap, Mountain Dew, or Amazon, named after the world’s largest river); fanciful words that bear no direct relation to your product but could be unusual in your space (Orange Bank); common phrases, including those that include numbers (Crazy 8 clothing stores for kids), puns (Youtopia), and using a letter to telegraph a word (as in Wells Fargo’s vSafe, where v stands for virtual).

  • Mark MacKay

    Creating a brand name is amazingly complex and fraught with dangers. A solid grounding in linguistics is required. Here’s an interesting article.

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